With giant-sized breast sculptures, one would have imagined that Yasuzo Masumura's Blind Beast (Moju) is the perfect breast fetish movie. But it's also a penetrating study of women politics, especially between a woman and her son's girlfriend. Stephen Tan reviews.


THE ASIAN VALUES VCD REVIEW

Yasuzo Masumura's Blind Beast or Moju (1969) starts with model Mako Midori talking about her current project. Nude shots of her chained up in various bondage poses is the talk of the town and the photo exhibition even features a nude statue of her in the middle of the room.

While attending an early meeting at the exhibition, Midori sees a man, Eiji Funakoshi, sensuously running his hands over the statue, an act which also sends chills down Midori's spine. Calling for a masseur after work one night, it is the blind Funakoshi who turns up and, with the help of his mother, Noriko Sengoku, kidnaps the model after chloroforming her.

Sculptor Funakoshi feels that Midori, with her perfect body and skin, is the ideal model for him. Waking up, Midori finds herself in the strange sculpture-filled studio and, at first, refuses to have anything to do with Funakoshi. Later, realising that there is no escape unless she can get Funakoshi into her confidence, she agrees and the two slowly begin a model-artist relationship.

 

Seeing Funakoshi's naivety in terms of relationships, especially with other women, Midori turns on her charms in the presence of Funakoshi's mother, hoping to drive a wedge between the two, thus allowing her a chance to escape. The ruse works as Sengoku, who feels herself psychologically threatened by the young model, tries to set her free, only to be stopped by Funakoshi. The resultant scuffle results in Sengoku's death.

Instead of using this a means of escape, Midori decides to stay with Funakoshi and the two then develop a bizarre relationship that starts off with touching and feeling each other before ending in beatings, whippings, mutilations and dismemberment.

For a film that relies so much on displaying tactile sensations, Blind Beast is surprisingly coy about showing female nudity. Those giant-sized breast and nipple sculptures don't count! (As Funakoshi says after discovering the real thing, his cold sculptures just don't cut it any more.) While there is some amount of female nudity, Midori always has her knickers on and when the camera is on her, she seems to be trying to cover herself up as best as possible!

 

Basically a three-hander, the movie capably draws the viewer in right from the start and does not let go. While pictures of Midori chained up foreshadow her own imprisonment in the later part of the movie, nothing quite prepares Midori, or the audience, when she finds herself in Funakoshi's studio. Given that Funakoshi is blind and the studio is not lit up, Funakoshi uses a torchlight to illuminate small portions of the walls to the cringing Midori - walls filled with giant-sized body parts such as eyes, noses, mouths, arms, legs and breasts. And two giant-sized women sculptures on the floor, one facing upwards, the other down. It's a journey that's as eerie and harrowing as the one Beauty (Jossette Day) makes through the "corridor of arms" in Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête (1946).

Central to the movie is Mako Midori who is no waif. She knows she is in a tight corner and uses everything she has - emotional blackmail and her body - to get out of the jam. The scene where she offers herself to Funakoshi in front of his mother is simple in terms of execution but highly effective as a narrative thread. Playing off against the mother, Midori puts to voice everything a mother has to fear when she is both dependent and has a need for her son.

With a protagonist who is blind from birth and who is psychologically a child, Funakoshi makes a pitiful young man caught between finding his art, neglecting his mother and striking up a new relationship.

Superb set design only adds to the film's success but it is the atmospheric and careful dissecting of female antagonisms that fuel Blind Beast, which after a while, does not matter if the actors are fully clothed or not, or if Midori slowly becomes sightless (in an act of identification with her captor). For them, the fingers are the "eyes" and it is the mind's eye that matters.

Note: The Blind Beast (Fantoma) DVD is banned in $ingapore.





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May 20, 2007








 

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